2014 Indian Motorcycle Chieftain | DOIN' TIME

Long-Term Update: One last hurrah with the Chieftain.

WRIST: Art Friedman
MSRP (2014): $23,999
MILES: 15,168
MPG: 35
MODS: Battery
UPDATE: 10… See ya!

Heading into what I expected to be my last month with the Indian Chieftain , I wanted to take at least one long ride before returning it.

A friend has been creating a Harley-Davidson 1200 Sportster adventure bike, and the plan was to take a ride together—me for a last hurrah with the Chieftain, him to shake down the Harley. Our plan was to make a loop through Utah and Arizona, but as the date approached, we agreed that heat made the Southwest untenable. So we decided to ride up the California coast. He had some last-minute issues, shortening the window for our ride, but we eventually did it.

I had debated between the stock seat and the Corbin saddle for three solid days of riding and eventually decided on the Corbin, which is roomier. (After switching back to the stock saddle after we returned, I complimented myself on the choice.) I now think the Corbin is superior to the stock saddle in virtually every way.

We spent three long days, mostly on California Highway 1. The Indian was flawless on the first day, but on the second day, it began to behave oddly when I started it. The starter was lethargic, and the resettable functions of the dash display (time, distance, fuel) reset themselves each start.

Otherwise, the Chieftain was an ideal mount. This tear up Pacific Coast Highway is a great ride for a bagger, which offers enough luggage capacity for three or four days on the road. The Chieftain’s powerful engine made for strong passes on the busy southern portion of Route 1. It has enough wind protection for those cool mornings and evenings along the coast but not too much for the hotter climes when we turned inland. It’s no sportbike, but handling is still more manageable than on a bike with a trunk or one hauling (shudder) a trailer (which we saw a lot of). The Indian also offers good long-haul comfort, which was more than welcome on our final 13-hour ride home through heavy traffic in the Bay Area then down Highway 101.

However, the day after I returned home, the electrical situation deteriorated. The Chieftain was at first reluctant to turn over, then wouldn’t crank enough to start. It was a bad time to have a major problem because Indian reps wanted the bike back, but I needed to know what the problem was and to be sure it was resolved. To further complicate matters, the West Coast fleet manager was headed to Sturgis. So the bike went to a dealer, which replaced the battery. Presumably the problem was a bad cell. Then I spent another week trying to abuse the electrical system. I’m convinced the problem was isolated and resolved. It’s inconvenient, true, but would be covered under warranty in any event.

Although I personally would be deterred somewhat by the price, I think the Chieftain is the best of the baggers on Indian’s first try. The excellent engine leads the list of its strengths. For me, its bias toward shorter riders (which was corrected with the Corbin saddle) is its biggest drawback. I don’t concern myself much with finish care, but it has generally held up well, the only complaints being some rust on the front brake-line fittings, the brake-disc carriers, and the mirror stems. The Chieftain continues to feel strong and solid, with the suspension feeling as controlled as when new.

Indian’s bagger has been a great companion for nice evening cruises, taking a girlfriend out for a ride in the mountains or up the coast, or just for getting groceries. I’m going to miss it.